Friday, May 31, 2013

Reality TV Shows I’d Like to See

Jordan Dane

Confession time. I am not a reality TV show watcher. I catch the occasional show simply because I can’t believe some of these shows are on the air. This last Halloween, my husband and I dressed as ZZ Top, but this year as we wore the same thing and sat on our front porch to hand out candy, everyone thought we were DUCK DYNASTY. That made me curious enough to watch the show. *snort* OK, I got a kick out of it. It quacked me up.

Here’s a picture of my husband on Halloween. He puts the NASTY in DUCK DYNASTY, right? (Our neighbors didn’t recognize us. They thought Honey Boo Boo had moved in and squatted on our property.)

Here are a few Reality TV shows I’d like to see:
Hillbilly Gynecologist – Nuff said. The title alone would sell it. Think: Gyno Boo Boo.
Survivor Meets Hannibal – I’d like to see a Survivor show that puts real teeth into surviving. Losers become the evening meal for the survivors. This can put a spin on Hell’s Kitchen or Chopping Block. Who wouldn’t want to see Chef Gordon Ramsey get whittled down to size, literally.
Hate My Kitchen – I would love to see a show where a guy with a camera crew visits a local Home Depot looking for someone interested in getting a kitchen makeover. They get these people all fired up that a crew is coming over to gut their kitchen. When the crew arrives, the hunky host of the show hands a sledge hammer to the homeowner and tells them to get started. The husband and wife totally get into wrecking their kitchen, but when they turn around, no one is there to help them, except the camera guy. Talk about being committed to a reno-job! There is nowhere except up from ground zero, folks. (Sponsored by Home Depot.)
I Can Do a Better Job – Anonymous people online are tracked down through their internet service providers and randomly selected to put their money where their mouth is after posting scathing reviews. Anyone critical of films, books, music, celebrities, doctors, government officials, ANYONE—they get an opportunity to shine and show how they can do a better job…while the universe is watching over their shoulder.
So these are a few ideas I had for Reality TV shows I’d like to see. Do you have any ideas to add? What shows do you watch and why do you like them so much?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where do I go from here? Girls & Ghosts Edition

Here's one of my not-so-secret secrets: I have tons of journals filled with ideas and a bunch of half-written stories dispersed in my computer. Oh no sir, I'm not the type of writer who leaves projects unfinished, but it happens that after starting a plot, its complexity or direction isn't working for me. So I let go more than abandon, because one day, I'll come back to it – and I always do.

Not this time, folks. Only fresh ideas for this new collection of ghostly stories where girls confront their deepest fears... and I'm actually scared. Of course I've been thinking about this project for a while, so ideas are slowly growing into creepy plots, but there's nothing already written on my plate like my past collections of novellas, and it makes me jittery.


So what is a girl to do? I'm trying to grasp as much information as I can, about things we don't fully understand with the little evidence out there. Like a junkie, I'm watching all these ghost hunters shows where people go willingly to haunted places to poke at spirits and gather EVPs, images of shadow figures and responsive communication – if any. Sceptic or not, it's beginning to form in my mind: girls who are scared, girls who don't believe, girls who are trying to help, girls who see dead people, and girls who won't confront the truth. And very slowly, they tell me their stories and how they deal with the fact that in the end we all die, and that we might become ghosts ourselves.

And then some miracle happens and someone captures such inspiring pictures, I completely lose my breath – and I'm still trying to catch it. Neil Gaiman posted this abandoned amusement park on Tumblr


Haunted, much? Seriously, look at the fog and the plants invading the structures – you can almost hear the screams of glee as the roller coaster rides down the rusty rails. But it's only an echo, because like many other places in New Orleans, it never got over the catastrophic disaster and it's slowly dying after being deserted and forgotten.

I can't forget, though – a bit like those ghosts who can't let go of what they knew and who they loved and how they used to be. So that will be my inspiration, an homage to people who are gone, places that are falling apart, and things we used to believe in.


Wish me luck? I need it, embarking on this Girls & Ghosts quest to give a voice to those who don't have any. One thing for sure: dark it will be, I promise.


Want an autographed softcover of Girls & Monsters? Giveaway ends June 28th, don't miss out ♥

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why Insta-Love is Not Insta-Love

Let’s talk about love.* 

 Real life is unpredictable. Messy. So, when it comes to the insta-love we see in books it’s important to look at it from both a literary and real life standpoint. Love, you see, isn’t as black and white as we often make it out to be. Especially in literature. It’s not as complicated, either. At least not in the beginning. In my opinion, the idea of insta-love can actually be completely accurate. Because falling in love can happen in the blink of an eye in the real world. I’ve been there. I’m sure most of you have, too. If not, get out there and start falling in love! 

 What happens after the falling in love part is when the real relationship begins and where the idea of insta-love, in my mind, falters. The term “insta-love” describes the moment when characters fall in love and, in reality, affection and attraction often occur that instantaneous. This is a different kind of love, one more abrupt than one grown from friendship or time. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.” Just because something is instantaneous does not mean it’s less accurate, it just means the focus is on feeling rather than logic. Especially in 400 page young adult novels, feelings often take center stage. Even if characters don’t swoon over each other than first time meeting, there’s often a mysterious undertone that suggests love or something like it right from the start. 

 However, most of the relationships depicted in novels feature problems the couples must solve in order to have that happy ever after, and even then the ending is not so completely happy. And, if their ending is free from danger, we must remember it’s only a piece of a much larger, unwritten story. This is where the term insta-love falters: A 400 page novel is not a character's complete story, just a piece of it. Perhaps when we add the “love” part to insta-love it creates the illusion that these moments of love are not the lasting variety. That we’re forgetting all the work it takes to maintain a relationship, because I do think that the majority of couples in literature are tested. 

 Bella/Edward meet Volturi. 
 Katniss/Peeta meet President Snow. 

 And while we might not see every single trial and tribulation they go through, there are very few literary couples that have everything so perfect from beginning to end. Actually, I can’t think of one. So much of the criticism surrounding insta-love is that it happens so quickly. One moment and it’s over. Love has been had. That’s it. In reality, those moments of instant connection are just the beginning of a more delicate love. There are different stages of love, each of them simple and complex at the same time. And while there are those who think literary criticism and real life opinions should stay separate, I think that, like love, nothing is so black and white. So, to call the idea of “insta-love” or “love at first sight” unrealistic would be accurate only if that was all that happened. But that’s not exactly the complete version of love, it’s the beginnings of it. A much better term for the insta-love connection we see so regularly in literature would be “insta-kind-of-love-but-really-thinking-about-becoming-love” because love, in reality and in literature, is so much more than that first connection. It’s about building upon that first connection, whether it’s a good or bad one. Through the tough times and the easy. And while it does all have to start somewhere, that moment of first sight is not where it ends. That, after all, wouldn’t be any kind of love story. 

 Love surrounds all the great moments in life. For some of us, these moments just happen in an instant and stay around long after. Is there such a thing as insta-love, or is the idea of falling in love completely accurate? What do you think? 

 *Bonus points if you started singing.

David James writes books about stars and kisses and curses. He is the author of the YA novel, LIGHT OF THE MOON, the first book in the Legend of the Dreamer duet, as well as the companion novellas, THE WITCH'S CURSE and THE WARRIOR’S CODE. A Legend of the Dreamer anthology, SHADES OF THE STARS, will be released in July 2013.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Saddest Acre

In honor of those who've fallen, I've decided to repost a piece I did back in 2011 on my visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and what's been called the "saddest acre." I know that the place certainly affected me. 

So I think that before you dig into that burger or crack that bottle of Bud . . . might be worthwhile taking a moment to remember what Memorial Day is supposed to be about. 

 * * * 

It’s been called the nation's saddest acre, but it is much larger, an ocean of orderly white headstones and black markers. It is also a very quiet place; you have to know where you’re going and what you’re looking for because so many people do not come here. From the parking lot, a steady river of tourists flows up the hill toward Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House where the flag always seems to fly at half-staff these days.  Many tourists take blue and white, open-air tour buses which trundle past the more famous sites: Kennedy’s grave, the Tomb of the Unknowns, the memorials to both the Challenger and Columbia astronauts. There’s a relatively new memorial dedicated to America's service-women where school kids have left notes and pictures

and there's a very nice series of exhibits detailing a quick, thumbnail history of women in the military. And, of course, there are memorials and graves: the remains of over 320,000 servicemen and women, veterans from every war and conflict in U.S. history. If you do go to Arlington National Cemetery and decide that you could do with a reminder of sacrifice that is real and immediate, then hang a left out of the visitor’s center and walk ten minutes or so down Eisenhower Drive (and get a fine view of the Air Force memorial),
past the McClellan gate rearing up on the right,

and then left down York, where they're also doing and then left down York, where they're also doing a little construction.

  There’s no mistaking Section 60, not only because it’s marked but the ground of the most recent burials is still raw and brown, and there are a lot of them. 
The awnings are a giveaway, too, because of the number of burials going on and how hot it's been in D.C. this summer. 

Down here, where the most recent graves are, the grass hasn’t grown back yet, and things are . . . freer. Arlington is orderly and pristine everywhere else, although some headstones are much more elaborate and what you’d expect from a cemetery.

Section 60, though, is different. It’s the newness for one, all that raw, brown earth and the aluminum caps that cover the freshest, empty rectangles that have yet to be filled. 

For another, this area is a little on the messy side, and that’s fine because life isn’t tidy and neither is death. Section 60 is very personal. There are pebbles on headstones and glass and bottle caps. There are pictures and balloons, fresh flowers and rubber duckies, dog tags and prayer beads, stones onto which a child has scrawled a message to his dad. 

And there are mourners. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph them in their grief because that felt like an invasion. Stephen Crowley did a fine series for the New York Times that's worth your time.  One thing I noticed: a lot of the guys who visited squatted down and then covered their mouths. I don’t know why that is. I imagined that maybe they were holding something back—maybe a sob or a scream. I got pretty emotional, so I can only imagine the horror, pain, and grief someone must feel when visiting a son or brother, a buddy or childhood friend. A few of the headstones gave me pause, too, the larger ones which mark where those killed on the same day or in the same operation or vehicle rest. They’re a little weird—I’m not criticizing; I’m just saying—because you read everything from helicopter mishap to helicopter crash and you have to wonder what the hell’s the difference. The end is the same. There are other remains here, too: soldiers who served in Vietnam and Korea, WWII.  Maybe it's to save space, but those who died together or served in the same outfit are memorialized together, as with this cluster of black temp markers.
Having read stories of people who visit and read poetry and books to the dead . . . I used to think that was just a little bit strange. But I spent a fair amount of time in Section 60 and leaving was very hard just as writing this is tough, too. I don’t know any of those people. Or, maybe, I did and do. Maybe there’s a man or woman I saw during my time in the Air Force, someone who served during Desert Storm and went on to serve during OED (Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraq) or OND (New Dawn in Afghanistan). Lingering and getting choked up then—and at this moment—seems so small, not even the least I can do because nothing will ever be enough. This is one debt that can’t be repaid. You can only be respectful and allow yourself to remember that Arlington isn’t just about history. Arlington is very much in the now: this hour, this moment, the minute that just went and the day yet to come.

So, next time you’re in D.C., do yourself a favor. Go pay your respects to the best dad, the world’s greatest mom, the most beloved husband, the most treasured wife, the bravest daughter, the most courageous son. Take a couple seconds or a good hour. Next time you read about something like those troops killed in Afghanistan a few days ago or hear about a kid from your town who died, take some time to reflect. Because life is precious; the times of our lives are valuable and so fleeting—and theirs, on this earth, are done.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friends, Romans, Countrymen; Lend Me Your Ears

Good day everyone. Mother chose to call me Morgan, so I assume that you all may also have the pleasure of doing so. I am the baby of the blog, below my cousin Lexi who's vast writing skills surpass mine, and I'm still wondering why I was invited but thanks J. What I lack in experience I make up for in enthusiasm. Humor me now; I'm going to answer a question that no single person has asked me and you're just going to have to deal with it. "Morgan! How on earth did you find out that you love writing?" I do not love writing. Love is an insult to this sheer passion and joy I have towards the written word. Likewise, It happened in a classroom believe it or not. I was asked to describe a color, any color, without being too unoriginal. I chose blue; it just seemed like it was filled with emotion. This is what I presented my peers and educator:

"Blue is that chill that bites at your cheeks on a rainy day.
Blue is the weight you bear on your shoulders as you're slumped in your seat in the third row of your uncle's funeral.
Blue is the look in your eyes after someone tells you how terrible they believe you to be, even though you had no harbinger to prepare yourself for this reaction to you asking "how was your day?".
Blue is the hue of your old friends skin as you identify them in the morgue after they had been shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Not great, but deep nonetheless... I suppose. I received quite a fuss after that, write this, write that, etcetera etcetera. Not understanding that this was halfway decent, I ignored the comments and just decided to write for myself, till now. I use to have all these stories and plot lines in my head, a never ending story if you will, they'd keep me distracted if I was upset and I wanted more from it. So, I began to start writing it down. There was just one problem with it; it's terrible. Much more high and mighty in my mind. There's much work to be done indeed and I intend to have it finished eventually.

I'm from Oklahoma;  I've been under quite a bit of stress at the moment.  So if this is absolutely retched, feel free to let me know. A tornado hit last Sunday and Monday; leaving devastation and reform in it's path. It's surreal until you witness it. Yesterday, I passed a funeral for one of the twenty-four people who had lost their lives. This was the funeral that Westboro "Baptist Church" was supposedly going to protest. Driving by the cemetery, there was a very long line of gargantuan bikers there to ward off the cult members. Across the street from them were others, holding signs that read "God loves Oklahoma" and "Pray for Moore." I'm proud of my home; everyone here is not as selfish and mean as I am. If you've never heard the sound of a tornado, then you have no understanding of just how frightening it really is. I've been through my fair share, including May 3rd, 1999. The story is that my mother was holding me in her arms as my dad was driving us to the HighSchool where we'd be safe. Upon exiting the vehicle, the tornado touched the ground and my parents ran for our lives.

I look forward to getting to know more writers, experienced and not as much through this blog. If there are any other young adults writing for young adults, please contact me. I have many questions to ask; and I'd like someone to bond with other than Lexi.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mythology and Superheroes

I’ve been geeking out about mythology quite a bit lately, partly because I’m teaching a class on the subject and partly just because it’s just so cool.

Over the past decade, many of mythology’s ancient gods and heroes have cropped up in the most popular video games (e.g. God of War), movies (e.g. Thor and Clash of the Titans), and novels (e.g. Riordan’s The Lightning Thief and P. J. Hoover’s Solstice). What is more, the spirits of these characters—what Joseph Campbell called “archetypes”—now influence modern story tellers as much as they did thousands of years ago, and every Hollywood screenwriter since George Lucas has studied the stages of the classical heroic journey.

The Trickster
One eternally popular element of mythology is the trickster. Almost every culture in human history has myths of an individual who relies on his or her wits to outsmart stronger, meaner foes. Examples range from Coyote (of the central and south-western America), or Anansi (of West Africa), or Loki (of Scandinavia) and Hermes (of Greece).

Tricksters are always clever, and are usually driven by a large appetite (sometimes for food, sometimes for sex, and sometimes simply for mischief). Additionally, the trickster is an explorer and an inventor who brings new things into the world.

Despite these similarities, opinions about tricksters vary widely from culture to culture, and how they are portrayed tells a tremendous amount about the people telling the stories. They can also tell us a lot about ourselves.

Hermes vs. Loki
The ancient Greeks, inventors of philosophy and democracy, revered knowledge and cleverness, and their treatment of tricksters shows this. Hermes, the quick-witted guy with the wings on his sandals, was one of the most popular gods in the ancient tales. The story goes that he became one of big shots of Olympus because his mischief amused Zeus, and he is also credited with inventing music and bringing countless gifts from to the mortal world. And they loved him for it.

Loki is also an inventor and a prankster, but was not beloved. Even though he provided Odin and Thor with their greatest weapons and treasures, and (so the story goes) he invented the fishing net that was the livelihood of the ancient northerners who told these tales, he is still scorned and mistrusted right from the start. I have to believe that this reflects the attitudes of a people from a harsh, icy world, which held no tolerance for mischief or unpredictable things.

Batman and Iron Man
Take Iron Man and Batman, two of the most popular super heroes today, also fit the trickster archetype. Both of these characters are inventors, both rely on their intelligence to defeat stronger opponents, and both have a knack for unpredictability.

And both have sold more comics and movie tickets in the last few years than many of their more powerful peers.

It seems that the “nerdy” heroes like these two are becoming the leaders, while the “jocks” like Captain America, Thor, and Superman are starting to take the second-string roles. Our modern mythology is beginning to reflect that brains, not brawn, is what makes money, determines laws, and wins wars.

Soap Lazarchak
I’d like to think I was ahead of the curve when I wrote Mad Science Institute. This novel follows two protagonists: Dean, a two-fisted tough-guy, and his cousin “Soap,” a girl genius whose inventions cause accidental property damage wherever she goes.

Dean was fun to write because he had all the daring-do of any good action hero. But it was Soap who kept me guessing: I found I could toss her into any scrape and she would come up with some surprising solution, even if I didn’t know what that would be when I started writing. I could surround her with murderous bikers, handcuff her to a chair, or chase her with mutant lizard-monsters, and somehow she would always manage to MacGyver her way out of it… and probably blow something up along the way.

Dean is the Thor/Hercules/Superman of my pantheon, a classic alpha-hero. But Soap, like Hermes, Coyote, Batman, Odysseus, and so many tricksters before her, invariably proves herself mightier than the mighty, even though she is the most vulnerable character in the book.

A Question
The classical “trickster god” archetype is well known to scholars, but I don’t know of anyone else who has used it as a lens for viewing superheroes or modern culture. What do you think? Am I out to lunch? If you think so, please tell me. On the other hand, if you can see other examples of modern tricksters in action, I’d love for you to share them.

Be good, and dream crazy dreams

Sechin Tower is a teacher, a table-top game designer, and the author of Mad Science Institute. You can read more about him and his books on and his games on

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Avoid Shiny Things

Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and today I’m talking about shiny things.

Right, shiny things.

Why, you might ask? Well, because, when writing, shiny things should be avoided at all costs.

Here’s what happens to me EVERY SINGLE TIME I am writing a book. I an head over heels in love with my book. It’s going to be the best, most amazing book in the entire world. It’s going to win tons of award and get all the praise, and I can’t wait to hit the words and write it. And so I start writing it and I’m excited and things are going great…until they aren’t.

Because something normally happens around page fifty. Maybe page one hundred. The writing gets hard. The story feels stale. I’m sure it’s all futile.

Enter the shiny new idea, because I’m sure to get one. And my shiny new idea is going to be the most amazing book in the world and is going to get all the fame and glory and I’m sure I should stop what I’m working on and work on my shiny new story idea.

Have you been there, too? Well, here’s my advice. Run away from the shiny. Stick with the story that’s gotten a little hard to write. Because if you don’t, you know what you’ll end up with? A bunch of fifty page stories on your computer and no finished novel. Jot down a couple quick notes and then get back to the word. You’ll find that love you once had for your original story. Push through that horrible middle, and when you come out on the other end, the sun will once again be shining.


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children’s, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.’s website or blog.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories and Treks

By Dan Haring

My older brother and I shared a room growing up, and for many years we had this poster of the USS Enterprise hanging on our wall.

Neither of us were huge Trekkies, (or Trekkers) although I seem to remember my brother watching a fair share of TNG as he got older. But before that, we were little boys and it was a cool spaceship with a ton of really neat detail. That's all that really mattered. After watching a few of the Star Trek films and finding out who Kirk and Spock and the rest of the crew were, I found even more enjoyment staring at the poster. Not only that, I was inspired by it.

And that's what great stories and characters can do. That's why there are millions of Trekkies and Star Wars and Batman fans. Millions of Dr. Who and Firefly and Sherlock fans. It's because these mythologies have characters that we love and hate, characters we're able to lose ourselves and our normal lives in, characters that change our lives. 

And that's why we see these characters popping up again and again. That's why there have been 500 James Bond films. It's why we're getting a new Superman movie next month. These characters resonate.

So think about it as you're crafting your story and characters. Are your characters worth caring about? Would anyone cry if they died? Does it break your heart when something horrible happens to them? Are you elated and inspired when they overcome their hardships and obstacles?

If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, chances are your characters aren't quite where they need to be. I don't have a silver bullet answer for what to do or how to fix them if they're falling short. But the best characters not only have pieces of us in them, they allow us to project our hopes and dreams and fears onto them. It's not easy to create a Katniss Everdeen or James Tiberius Kirk or Luke Skywalker, but it's possible. 

This past weekend I saw Star Trek Into Darkness, (which was fantastic) and got this cool Star Trek poster by Mark Englert. (it even glows in the dark)

As soon as I saw it, I knew what I was going to do with it. My two boys share a bedroom, and I hung it where they both can see if from their beds, next to the Batman and Star Wars pictures. They're a little young for Star Trek, but they're not too young to be inspired. And as they read Harry Potter and watch The Avengers I want them to have favorite characters and go through the love and hurt and joy and pain those characters go through.

If you ask me, that's why we read and watch stories.

And why we tell them too.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lectures, Laughter And A Love Of Writing

Hey everyone! 

My name is Lexi, and this is my first blog post on ADR3NALIN3! To help introduce who I am, I’m going to tell you all the story of when I realized I wanted to write. When I first wanted to write and never stop. 

I was six years old sitting on my couch as my mother was giving me a lecture. I don’t remember much of what she said, it was kind of like in the movies where the rest of the sound drowns out and the only thing I was aware of was my own internal dialogue. 

Earlier that day I had gone to a birthday party, and as the end of the party drew nearer I began to spin an elaborate tale to the father of the child’s birthday I was attending. I told him that my mother has a twin sister (which she doesn’t) and that they were so identical the only way you could tell them apart was by their hair. I told him that my aunt would wake up before even the sun would rise so that she could blow dry her hair straight, (this was before straighteners) and that my mommy wore hers naturally curly. 

Little did I now that while I was at the party, my mother had gone to a hairdresser WHERESHE GOT HER HAIR STAIGHTENED. So whenever she comes to pick me up from the party, Jack (the father) goes to shake her hand as if he had never met her before. My mother’s face held a fantastic cocktail of emotions, befuddlement to why he was introducing himself when she had dropped me off only two hours prior, curiosity as to why I refused to meet her eye. And finally embarrassment as she realized what I had done. 

After explaining that I had an over active imagination and some awkward apologies my mom ushered me home, which brings us to the couch. 

I only had the ability to listen to the first few things my mother said because I picked up on just a few key words. ‘If you wanna lie Lexi, just become an actress, a politician or a writer.’ 

People got to tell stories for a living! It was the most incredible thing I had ever heard of. I knew instantly that one of these things was going to be my calling. 

I participated in theater for the next few years, under the tutelage of an incredible woman that continues to inspire me to this day. And one day after I asked her for the twenty-somethienth (yes I know that isn’t a word) time ‘Toby, wouldn’t the script sound better if…?’ Toby looked at me with a big knowing smile on her face, a smile that I didn’t realize at the time but now I recognize it to be the smile of possibilities. Toby told me, ‘Why don’t you write a script? Let’s perform YOUR story.’

Now don’t get me wrong, I had written short stories before. Little rhymes that didn’t make sense and storylines involving a princess named Lexi who has a pet lion. Because really, how awesome would that be?? But until then it had never really occurred to me that I could write something important. And yet here was this wonderful woman that I looked up too, telling me she not only wanted me to write a play, she wanted to read it and then eventually perform it!

And it seems that is all it took, someone believing that the tales I spun from inside of my head were important to make me feel like they did, in a way it even made me feel important. (Still does to be honest.)

Writing is such a huge part of who I am, and that is why I am honored to be writing for this blog!
I hope everyone has a good Saturday! See you in two weeks!

Write On, ;) (Did you see what I did there?)


Friday, May 17, 2013

Weird Stuff I Have on my Desk

Jordan Dane

In a recent interview, someone asked me about my writer’s desk. They wanted pictures. My desk is in a constant state of clutter. I have books ideas, edit notes, and research piled high. Even though it looks like a complete mess, I generally know where everything is. I’m better organized online, but I am a packrat.
A better thing to talk about are the weird things I’ve accumulated over years and KEEP on my desk. While I was gone to the OWFI conference in Oklahoma recently, my husband waited for me to leave town before he cleaned my office. Basically he took the things I had in moving boxes and displayed them so it didn’t look as if we just moved in. I have taken over our upstairs media room and use it solely for my office. It’s like an apartment, suitable for my desktop sprawl so we can keep the rest of our house in order and pretend we are grown-ups. 
When I got back from OK, my office looked like someone could really work there. It was like taking a trip down memory lane, too. He hung my awards, recognitions, and B.S. degree. (I write fiction. Of course, I have a degree in BS. Duh.) He also has a section of photos on the wall - fun pics of salmon fishing with friends when we lived in Alaska. I have my writing contest certificates and old volleyball trophies and plagues when I was a player and coach in Alaska. My office is like a time machine now.
I tell people that I use toys to keep me plugged into my inner child so I could write YA, but that’s not entirely true. I am NEVER far away from my inner child. Since I chose not to have kids, I’ve never had to be a good example to ANYONE. So my inner child is totally me. Writing YA only gave me a reason to get worse. So the things I have on my desk were accumulated BEFORE I wrote YA.
Here are a few:
Pog Mo Thoin sign – a gift from my aunt and grandmother. It means "Kiss my Ass" in Gaelic. (Yes, I’m bilingual in obscenit-ese.)

Hat collection – My Greenbay Packer cap lights up and flashes & I wear my hardhat & bee antennas to ward off writer’s block.

Walkie-talkies – Doesn’t everyone have these on their desk? My husband and I recently used them to trap a stray Great Dane in our backyard to rescue him. True story.

Screaming Tomahawk – When you strike it on a surface, it screams bloody murder. I use it for scary scene writing to get me in the mood.

Mr Perfect Doll – Pull a chord on his back and he tells me whatever I need to hear. And no, he is not anatomically correct.


Diva Dog - This was a gift from very dear friends who thought Paris Hilton and I would have plenty in common once I got famous. The stuffed dog is a purse with a pen zipped into its back for autographs.

Okay so I have dished the truth about my office and desk where I write. Now it’s your turn. What is the weirdest thing on YOUR desk…at home or work? I want deets, people. We’re all friends here. I promise not to tell anyone, so spill.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alt. Girl

Dear ADR3NALIN3 readers,

I'm the new alt. Thursday author and I thought we should get to know each other as our meet-cute!

It seems I've been writing forever, that my journals and I have never been apart, that every waking hour was spent waiting until I can finally put to paper what's boiling deep inside - but it hasn't. In fact, it's been 9 years since I realized how much I loved to write... and it didn't come cheap, either.

Working in a prestigious company with a good salary and few advantages was nothing compared to an extensive course in London, completing a Master's in screenwriting, living my dream for this one year. So I quit that job, sublet my apartment, said goodbye to everything I knew and flew overseas to the city that still feels like home. It happened there, that moment when you fall in love with something that's been there all along, but you just didn't quite know it: writing. Back then it was screenplays and the power of dialogue, revealing through images what words could not, and finding the balance between one-liners and monologues – it was tough, at times brutal and painful, but I loved every torturous second of it.

Then it was time to come back home – on the other side of the pond in Canadaland with its lack of proper tea houses and too many normal-accented folks - and did what good screenwriters (with film production backgrounds) should do: I wrote, directed and produced three short films. These were my projects with actors I'd hand-picked and technicians I'd interviewed, this was my time to shine, to fall in love with film again... And nothing, not even a pitter-patter or a heartbreak, because I came to face the facts: I've moved on, I was in love with writing and I wanted to be alone in my dungeon and not making films, anymore. How's that for student loans and a maxed out Visa card on film stock and equipment??

It's time like these you grow up, the moment that changes your life forever; not when you pack your bags or walk on foreign soil, but when you quit that old dream to become who you're meant to be. It's hard, I'll give you that, and it hurts at times, but then you receive that magazine with your first published story in it, with your name in print, and it's all worth it. In the end, through the fog of regrets and the shreds of remorse, the new dream wins.

For nine years, it's been me and my friends and betas and critique partners; for nine years, my stories have been shared with a limited number of people. Until now that my first book is out and people are actually reading it. How does it feel? Like I never wasted a day of my life, that everything I've done brought me here, and that it's only the beginning.

I can't wait to get to know you, ADR3NALIN3 reader, so drop me a comment about your dreams, writing, reading - anything that makes your life worthwhile:)

Lots of spooks,
anne ♥

So what is that book called Girls & Monsters? It's a collection of dark novellas for young adult (or anyone who wants to read it, I'm not ageist) where girls become who they're meant to be. But for me, it's the result of years of fine-tuning my voice, of finding my way into this crazy and ever-changing publishing world, and discovering that being a writer is who I have become.
Since I want to share Girls & Monsters with you guys, here's a chance to win an autographed softcover copy!! The international giveaway ends on June 28th and the winner will be picked by Good luck, keep calm, and be dark.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Junk-food for thought...

by A.G. Howard

Now that I've had a month-long break from writing (and while I'm waiting for my next set of edits) it's time to start planning another book. And although I can't officially announce what it is, I can share my crafting process.

I'm totally about the visual. My first stage of starting a story is building characters: what they look like, what their GMC (Goal/Motivation/Conflict) will be, and their personalities/names. To aid in this, I have a pinterest board for fascinating faces that fuel my imagination:

Click to go to pinterest board

Since my current project is one I started a while back, I've already got the characters lined up.

Which means I move on to stage two: creating the settings and world. This is how I feel when I get to start world-building:
It's one of my favorite things EVER. Maybe because it's when I really turn my imagination loose and embrace the crazy. Anyone who's read Splintered knows what I mean. Again, I have inspirational pinboards for world-building:

But, one of the most fun things about world building is I get to indulge in all the junk-food my wee little brain can digest.

I'm not talking cheetos or twinkies (although those do have their place, along with coffee and inordinate amounts of chocolate). I'm talking about horror movies with surreal plots, tons of shock value, and reel upon reel of grotesque eye candy.

Creepy critters and disturbing settings work like a defribrillator to my muse, and it's even better if the plot is mainly black and white without too many grays (in other words, junk food for the mind). That way, my brain is free to gorge itself on the visual aspects without having to think too hard about layers or predicting the ending.

Recently I've discovered the Silent Hill movies. Because they're based on computer games, the plots are mainly good vs bad and there is no shortage of gruesome graphics, scenery, and monsters.

Here are two of my favorites from the 3rd movie:

(1) A spidery creature made up of mannequin pieces. The first time I saw it scuttling down the wall, it was SO CREEPTASTIC I salivated. Heh.

I posted a still shot, but if you're brave enough to see the creature in action, feel free to click on the video clip...

(2) Mutated rusty-razor-bearing nurses whose faces are a macabre twist of skin that looks like an exposed brain. Since they have no eyes or noses, they react to their other senses: touch and sound, and move in a really jerky manner that makes them even freakier.

Watching movies also keeps me attuned to the distinctive movements of the creatures and how they react to their setting, which puts that foremost in my mind as I'm building my own worlds and monsters.

As for an actual setting that has spoken to me, there was a scene in a decrepit amusement park that inspired a deliciously eerie idea for a carnival in my newest project. I can't WAIT to write it. ;)

I mean, seriously, with an entrance that looks like this, who wouldn't be inspired to create something terrifying ... or at the very least, to run far, far away.


Seeing as I'm a glutton for weird creatures and places, I guess I've found the perfect calling and outlet by writing dark and creepy novels. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To Novella Or Not To Novella?

Happy Tuesday! 

I'm David James and I'm new here at ADR3NALIN3 (Did I spell that right?), but I don't feel new. The wonderful thing about being a part of a creativity community is that people are often so friendly and welcoming. I'm looking forward to blogging here! Today's post is a quick one because of my new release, but I (kind of) have a joke at the end so it's all good. And, in celebration of The Warrior's Code (my new release OUT TODAY), I'm going to be talking a little bit about novellas. 

The Warrior's Code was written many months ago, before my first novel, Light of the Moon came out. Code started as a character development piece that (very quickly) morphed into something much more. 

But I don't want to talk about the how.

I want to talk about the why.

What I want to ask is this: Why do we need novellas?

Personally, I enjoy origin stories and character pieces that are complete stories in themselves. A novella should have the same features a traditional book has. A beginning, middle, and end. A plot. A climax. A resolution. Often, the ending of a novella is a moment of hope that leaves the reader wanting more, and that's okay, but there should still be a conclusion of some kind. Of course, that's my opinion. Talking specifically about why we need novellas, I think that novellas are an excellent way to introduce new characters that might narrate other books in a series. By introducing the character further through a novella, it's easier to relate to a new narrator down the road. Also, I think novellas are a great way to give characters a "happy ending" that may not have a place in the original story. 

What do you think? How do you like your novellas? Easy and open-ended? Or complex and complete?

(I feel like there was a "How do you like your eggs?" joke in there and I missed it)


Monday, May 13, 2013

A Page From Winslow's Playbook

Okay, I'm going to be completely upfront about this: my brain's been on total information overload.  Not exactly fried, but being the workaholic I am, I haven't taken a weekend to do pretty much NOTHING for . . . well, forever.

Doing nothing wasn't the plan.  Remember: ten days ago, I finished the first pass-through revision for WHITE SPACE.  Since then, I've been cramming in information and beginning to outline the second book in the series.  So I had every intention of hitting the stacks of books I've amassed and get on with it already.

But Saturday conspired to do me in.  I don't know exactly what it was.  Could be that I was still pooped from dress rehearsal for the last symphony chorus performance of the season the night before.  When I woke up Saturday, I was cranky, worried about a couple pages, anxious that Brahms really would have the last laugh.  (Man, this guy was cruel when it came to count and syncopation.)  So I allowed myself to get sidetracked.  Listened to the whole piece again that morning.  Played around on an online site, making sure I had all the notes and the count down.

Then, I opened my email.  Big mistake.  Got into this very long discussion with a friend about the publishing world nowadays, and THAT led me to seek out a couple blogs I've recently neglected, and what THEY had to say made me even antsier because it was so CLEAR that I hadn't thought about some of the stuff they were talking about.  So I read that instead of doing the other reading I should've been doing. (Really, if you could see the mountain of books I'm digesting before I leave for that research trip to the UK in a couple weeks--and I could've sworn I'd taken a picture at some point--maybe you'd understand the fast boil going on inside my skull.  I have got to write a blog post about researching a historical; I just gotta.)

Anyway, when I looked up, it was already afternoon, and I thought, hell, get something done.  I did--there was a whole bunch of stuff, information and whatnot about characters, stewing in my head--but not nearly enough, and I found myself breaking off to go give Brahms another run-through. O.o  And then it was time to exercise and then there was the concert and, yes, we DESTROYED that Boito and gave the Brahms Requiem a real what-for.

Came home.  Drank half a martini.  Ate some cheese and bread.  Had a good cry over a silly chick-flick.  Got midway into Hoosiers, saw it was closing in on half past midnight and thought, Jeez, Ilsa, go to bed.

And then it was today, Sunday.  I'm a good daughter.  Of course, I called my mom, and then my kids called and we all yakked--and when I looked up, it was almost 1:00 p.m.

And I thought, hell.  (Actually, I thought something much stronger than that.)  Because, see, I really wanted to hammer on that outline, but I also wanted to make a cake because doing so always makes me feel like I've actually accomplished something.  There was exercise still to do as well, and then the husband was scheduled to come home from his week-long business/family trip.  We were supposed to go out to dinner.

I had an attack of the guilts like you can not believe.  Honestly, Catholics have nothing on Jews when it comes to guilt.  I was going to slink over to my desk and work.  Just forgo the cake and all that.

But then I saw this: 

And I thought: Ilsa, for God's sake, take a page from Winslow's playbook and cut yourself a break.  Let it go.  Kick back, make your cake, let the day and the weekend go . . . just this once.

So I did.  I made my Sunday cake, Strawberry Bundt with White Chocolate Ganache:

My husband came home just as I was turning it out, and we went to the gym.  He took me out to dinner.  We just got back, and he gave me a fab assortment of fancy vinegars.  [Two of my endearing qualities, he claims: I am a) a cheap date and b) very easy to please.]

So that's that.  I've officially blown off the day and the weekend, something I almost never do.  I've nothing profound to say, although I honestly do believe you guys ought to take a gander at the following blog posts from Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch because I think they raise interesting questions about where we, as writers, might be headed, and in the very near future.  Don't wait for my next post to comment either; if you've got feelings about what they're talking about, let's hear 'em and we can go from there.  I know they certainly got me thinking.

But, for now--this very rare weekend--I've let my overheated brain take a rest.  Pretty much.

I think it's time for a cat nap.